Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Screenplays’

Hollywood story coach reveals essential elements of great storytelling, part 1

You probably know the key elements of good storytelling and have even observed them in books and movies, but do you consciously use them in your own writing?

At a recent writer’s meetup in Las Vegas, Hollywood story coach Michael Hauge spoke about what makes a great story. He’s coached writers, producers, and directors on projects for actors, including Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, and Morgan Freeman, as well as every major studio and network.

Hauge said there are 10 essential elements to great storytelling, and ultimately they’re the key points an agent or editor will want to know when you pitch your project. Here are the first five:

1. The story must have a hero or heroine. This main character – the protagonist — more than any other character, drives the story and has the potential to be heroic. The hero has a desire that propels the action.

2. The Setup. In the setup, you’ll introduce the hero living his everyday life before anything heroic happens. The movie Lone Survivor draws readers into the world of the characters before they go on their fatal mission. The first scenes show them interacting with family and dealing with daily life. In this world, you must use vivid details to, “create a movie in the mind of the reader,” Hauge said. This will amplify the readers’ emotion, and eliciting emotion is a core principle of successful stories.

Fiction novels and movies are “before and after pictures,” Hauge said. The setup is the “before picture.” Sometimes these scenes show how the hero is “stuck.”

While most movies and novels open with action already underway, it’s important early in the story to reveal what was happening before the action began. Read more

Write your book blurb first to stay on track

In working on my new manuscript, one of the things I do from time to time is look at my main idea to make sure I’m on track or to see if it’s changed. In The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay by author and screenwriter Cynthia Whitcomb, she suggests that you spend a little time figuring out if you can tell your story in an abbreviated fashion.

She’s talking about screenplays here, but the advice also holds true for novels or nonfiction books:

“Write the ad copy. Write the TV Guide blurb. Write what people will tell their friends about this great movie they saw last weekend. Word of mouth is powerful…. This simple exercise, done before you write the script, could be helpful all the way down the road. If you can tell it in a strong, abbreviated version now, it will be easier for you to get it right as you write (And then to pitch it, too).” Read more